September 28, 2002

Battery Acid Blues: Scrambled Visions In Calabasas

Keir DuBois scoffs at your silly controlled substances. (Originally written for, but never published in, the Artsweek section of the UCSB Daily Nexus on 3/21/98).

Last night I had a fabulously weird dream. The Mojo Wire had just finished playing a great gig, and so appropriately the band was in my dream. All of us- Adam, Bryn, Joe and I were driving south on the 101 through what looked like Calabasas. The hills were all green-brown, California hills that are all saturated for one month and then choked with mud and dead grass for the other eleven. They undulated into the southern distance toward Malibu like great bubbling milkshakes. Milkshakes? Of course. We’d stopped at Jack-In-The-Crack for milkshakes. Bryn slurped loudly in the seat behind me, and then gave a great belch. Adam began to laugh and drive at the same time- a very dangerous thing for him to do. We swerved between two semis like Luke Slywalker infiltrating the Death Star, and Popov the hamster screamed like Chewbacca.

Joe eyed them nervously. Perhaps he wished we were in Huntington Beach by now, so he could leave our little ship of fools. Ha! Did he really think that he could join the Mojo Wire and not get away with experiencing stupidly childlike behavior? Popov, our roommate Ryan’s pet, was nestled in his cage, which sat between Joe and Bryn and their luggage. The bags were piled upon their laps up to their noses, so when Bryn had burped it was actually quite muffled, and that’s what Adam had laughed at. It wasn’t really a laugh; more of a baritone chuckle of air- the molecules of which I could see pass through his trachea down into the tiny alveoli where the hydrogen atoms were mercilessly separated with much weeping and moaning from their respective oxygen parents like some cruel bureaucratic orphan-creation scheme.

Their screams harmonized with Jimmy Buffett as he warbled out of the car stereo. This was too much for the hamster, who recoiled in terror at the hydrogen-bomb-Buffett symphony and hid under his cedar chips, secretly wishing that the giant monster of Bryn above him would not remember the night that it had drunkenly screamed at the poor animal to come out of the stereo speakers. I could see Popov shiver as the memory of that incident cloaked the rodent in fear. Good. Maybe now the little bugger wont be so much trouble. If he bit Ryan half as much as he bit us our roommate would have squished him like a roach.

I ignored the cage to concentrate on Adam, who was going on about the Carmen Electra poster in his bathroom. “She makes me swoon at fifty paces. She also makes me do several other disturbing things that involve fruit and foot fetishes, like the time the juice bar closed on a Friday night just as the peak flow of teenagers was exiting the rerelease of Scream.”

“Holy shit!” exclaimed Bryn. “That reminds me of the night of the Long Knives! Three or four of us had gone out back to avoid the Nazis, and we began to sing ‘Please Accept My Love’ in our drunkenest voices. Then, like a torrent from the depths of the gutter, the screaming weasels were upon us! We were almost raped by wild goats! Geraldo Garbanzo, said I, you drop that bottle of tequila right now and pay me that $224.89 that you owe me or I’ll have the Wise Women of the Western Stars make castanets out of your eyeballs, already! Joe lost a finger and my dolphins prehensile anatomy was nearly severed. Scariest experience of my life.”

“I didnt lose a finger,” Joe corrected him. “I got a cut on my hand. It was just a scratch. Dont forget, I did whup those weasels good. Theyll not soon forget that.”

“What game should we play now?” I asked. We’d exhausted our cranial resources on lingering Trivial Pursuit cards strewn throughout Adam’s car.

“I know!” said Bryn. “Let’s play my favorite game: ‘Will Adam Drink It?!?’”

“NO,” came the retort from our fearless driver. “Not while Im in control of this TV show!”

Adam was having problems with his staff over several issues of writer’s credit (some schmo had stolen the rights to his “Key West Tapwater” song, and that troll would go to hell for it). Our intrepid explorer interrupted his tirade when he could not simultaneously focus on it and the humongous roadsign that loomed ahead of us. A giant arrow pointed to the road’s shoulder, on which an even bigger billboard had plastered across its face what looked like the Millenialist Manifesto. Adam winced and kept driving. Joe grimly stared it down. Bryn’s nostrils flared and he snorted in contempt.

Popov whined quietly, “What does it say?” To benefit the illiterate rodent, I read aloud as we whizzed by. It was only my feeble voice, but in that cramped setting the guys recalled that it was all lush and reverberated, like the prescence of God, or maybe just Johnny Cash...

“Thou shalt act with great condescension and thinly veiled rancor toward those beings of this earth who are simultaneously paranoid, possessive, and supersensitive to the fictitious needs of others; all the while slaving to ridiculous routine in the erroneous belief that it might better their lives.

Hark,know ye that inferior souls are those that hold within them simultaneously those horrid qualities of mindless precision, perpendicular rigidity, frightened conspiracy, tainted privacy, frigid formality, stifling cleanliness, anal retentiveness, humorless indulgence, meticulous detail, absurd authority, totalitarian weakness, unbridled assumption, terrifying tidiness, bad Depeche Mode, explosive fear, profane verbiage, deficient musicality, delinquent originality, blasphemous pomposity, insufficient creativity, egomaniacal greed, and general pathetic microphallism; and thou shalt treat these souls with scorn, regardless of sex, race, creed, age, sexual orientation, political affiliation, nationality, left-handedness, boxers, briefs, glasses, braces, IQ, poker chips, closed curtains, and a partridge in a pear tree.

You can be sure that I will send these creeping doomsayers that hide behind the shield of Y2K straight to the Inferno. Now, go forth into this dying planet and its ossifying inhabitants and spread this word so that all may be enlightened and thus live their weary lives in a newfound and pure happiness.”
Gee, I thought. That poor bastard must really hate his roommate. Bummer.

And so it was that on one cool autumn day the one true revelation announced itself in the mind of our hero, and all was well. The four humans and the rodent, packed tightly in the Escort, were still in Calabasas bickering like wild monkeys when I woke up.

September 21, 2002

Battery Acid Blues: The Wisdom of Jackson Hammer

Keir DuBois interviews someone you may never meet... (Originally published in the Artsweek section of the UCSB Daily Nexus on 2/14/98).

Author's Note: Recently for a year-end special at a rival publication I interviewed a musician friend of mine. It's cheating a little, but I'm going to run the first part of it here as well.

Jackson Hammer is one of the most bitter and vindictive musicians I've ever met, a major casualty of the Hollywood star-making system. He is, however, still one of the most knowledgeable and opinionated lovers of music of any kind that I know of.

Keir DuBois: So what's it like trying to make it on a little scene like this one? Any advice for budding rockers?

Jackson Hammer: Well, don't get too excited. There aren't many venues around here or downtown that are particularly receptive to that many different styles of music.

KD: Really?

JH: Oh, sure. I.V. is all small parties of horrible punk and ska bands, and half of those are catering to the greek houses. Not that frats are the reason that they're awful- I mean, if you're in a band and you can pull a gig at a frat party and take their money after performing a lousy twenty minute set, then that's fine. Laugh all the way to the bank, I say.

KD: What about downtown?

JH: It seems to me, and I'm not the voice of eminent experience, but the only club downtown that is really open to all kinds of music is the Yucatan. I've played at other places, but only that club has asked my band to come back. It doesn't matter if you're ska or punk or blues or reggae or whatever else, they'll give you a chance, and they're the only ones. Pretty much all of the other clubs on State Street play blues bands to death.

KD: Don't like the blues?

JH: No, it's not that at all, and I know that you're in a blues band and are particularly fond of them. It's just that now there seems to be another revival of the blues again, and it's even more diluted than before. I mean, in the sixties there was the first revival, with Cream and Clapton and Zeppelin and all of those other gunslingers and their fretboard gymnastics ripping off American black musicians, and then in the eighties there was a second revival with Stevie Ray Vaughan that kind of died after he did.

Now there are all these young blond kids out there like Johnny Lang or Kenny Wayne Shepherd that were raised on heavy metal and other kinds of wank-a-rama bullshit, and they're being touted as the next coming of greatness and they get to tour with, like, B.B. King or some other geezer who had their songs and style stolen thirty years ago. I don't really consider myself any kind of purist, but it's sad to see a form diluted so much by people who know or care so little about its background. Same with ska; It's become frat-goon music.

KD: So what kind of originality would counter this?

JH: Well, not techno, right? Or "electronica," that was the media term, wasn't it? That just fizzled. Not American rock bands either, or not new ones. Pearl Jam still has a future; they'll be in it for the long haul, I hope, but all the other guitar-driven stuff that was released last year by American bands was just shit, you know? I mean Matchbox 20? 311? Total trash. I really think the only original stuff that's been made, in terms of pure white-boy rock, was made by a handful of British bands, and even they sound like a warped second coming of psychedelia.

KD: Name names?

JH: Easy. Radiohead, the Verve, Supergrass, Cornershop. England hasn't seen this much in quite a while. Even U2 is still trying, but then the Irish never know when to stop, do they?

KD: What about the brothers Gallagher?

JH: Well, you know, Oasis isn't much of a forum for original thinking. Every tune on those three albums grows out of a defining Beatles riff. I think "Don't Look Back In Anger" steals a direct piano line from "Imagine."

KD: So how's that different from "Bittersweet Symphony?"

JH: It's completely different because it's not really base theft on the part of Richard Ashcroft and the Verve. See, they only took three chords from a symphonic version of a Stones song, not from a true Jagger/Richards tune. The reason that bastard Andrew Oldham sued the Verve for all they were worth was pure greed, cause the Verve built a whole new song from those three chords but still obviously used them as the blueprint.

KD: Let's get closer to home. What do you try to do in writing music and lyrics to keep up a sense of originality?

JH: There's not much you can do. I know I just contradicted myself, but how can I describe it? Every original idea is based on what's come before, either as an emulation or as a reaction against. For me, it's like a flood. Like a long intellectual drought quenched by a huge verbal torrent, and that's just lyrics. Music just comes into my head. I don't mean to sound pompous or anything, but that's the way it happens. I come from a musical family, and so I've always heard music in my head. Kind of weird, but I guess it's better than hearing voices.

KD: Do you have any new material along these lines?

JH: Um, yeah. I've put together a couple of love songs, actually.

KD: No!

JH: Yep, cranky and cynical old me. The kicker is that they were really hard work to write, because I've always hated silly love songs. I always dished out so much hate when I heard, um, Richard Marx or someone like that, because I've always thought that those kinds of writers were the biggest wimps, lyrically and musically. I did this kind of dissing for my whole life until one of my really good friends dared me to write a love song. It was a real challenge, cause this girl is something of a poet and a romantic, so I put all I had into not one, but two love songs, just to see if I could impress her. Maybe if it works I'll be legitimate in panning mushy love songs. Maybe I'll be a hypocrite cause now I've written some. Oh well.

KD: I didn't think writing love songs was such hard work.

JH: For me it is. I don't know, maybe it's cause I'm such an ornery little goober, but it was like pulling teeth. Don't know if I could do it again.

September 14, 2002

Back For Good: Looking Up to Patti Smith

Keir DuBois looks up to Patti Smith. (Originally published in the Artsweek section of the UCSB Daily Nexus on 10/23/97).

Patti Smith is very happy. The “Godmother of Punk” certainly doesn’t seem angry enough to merit that title. Perhaps that’s because she’s had enough of deep pain. Her last album, 1996’s Gone Again, swung low into despair and mourning over the deaths of her husband, MC5 guitarist Fred Smith, and of her friend, artist and photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. That pain was enough to bring her out of the semi-retirement she’s enjoyed (with the exception of a 1988 album) since 1980. With Gone Again, and the new Peace and Noise, Smith returns to the fore with a vengeance, reasserting the poetic power she has held over rock and roll for twenty years.

Artsweek: Peace and Noise is your second album in 2 years. What was the impetus for the new activity after all that time off?

Patti Smith: Fred and I were working toward a new record, and around 1993 we started building material and ideas for what we thought would be pretty much a politically articulate record addressing issues we were both interested in. When Fred passed away I didn’t quite have the heart to work on that record and instead sat down and wrote most of the songs for Gone Again in rememberance of Fred. It was really a record that I constructed around him as a man, and having done that, after I regrouped and strengthened myself, I felt I could continue to work on the type of record that we had set out to do, that would address things he and I thought were important.

Did making Peace and Noise get you excited about recording again?

Yeah certainly, because I was honored to be able to communicate certain things about Fred. As his wife and his friend I felt it my duty and something I wanted to do, but it wasn’t the most joyful of experiences, and so to enter the recording studio and to addreess these other subjects was invigorating.

Recently I saw you on TV in this documentary on PBS about New York in 1975 and the whole scene that revolved around CBGB’s, with Television and the Ramones and other bands. Would it be weird for you to see yourself on PBS?

You mean would it be strange for me to see myself in the 70s? No, I mean, I don’t know how to answer that, but it’s no more strange than seeing pictures of myself in my Easter outfit when I was a little girl. It’s a part of my evolution as a human being. Sometimes it’s very touching to see myself with my old band, but when I look at myself back then, or listen to my old work, the thing is not to be judgemental, like artists are of themselves, but to examine it and hopefully find that it was done with the best of intentions, which I think I can always say that it was.

So looking back there’s nothing that you regret?

Well no, not in terms of work. I think that I always did the best work that I knew how to do at that particular time. That doesn’t mean that it’s great work and it doesn’t mean that it always measures up, but I know as an artist I always gave everything that I had. my regrets as a human being are personal, like falling short as a friend somewhere. I mean, we’ve all had regrets of how we’re handled ourselves as human beings but as an evolving artist i think i did just about all I could.

Does it bother you that kids now tend to discover your work through your collaborations with other more currently high profile artists?

No, not at all- It’s still communication, you know? I’m happy that the work would connect with anybody at any particular time. When I was doing my work in the 70’s I was very conscious of addressing a certain aspect of the population. I really felt I was addressing people more like myself, who were miscast, people that didn’t have any perceptible place in society, and remind them that they weren’t alone. At this time of my life, i just do my work in hopes of communicating with whomever might need to hear it, at any age.

What does your son like to listen to?

My son Jackson is fifteen and a guitar player, a very good guitar player, probably will be great, and he likes Stevie Ray Vaughan. He likes all kinds of music but that’s one of his heroes. Of course, he admires his father’s work and plays quite a bit like Fred. Jackson’s very open; he was listening to Segovia the other day and he’ll listen to Pavarotti. He’s very interested in all kinds of music but Stevie Ray Vaughan is his where he gets his essential inspiration.

Many musicians who have children with interests like that might say “I’d rather you not get into that kind of work” because they know all the pitfalls and they don’t want to see that happen to their kids. But you encourage it?

Well, the thing is, I think there are pitfalls in every walk of life. I’ve known some of the people that are the least together or have the worst drug problems to be in big business; you see the businessman who seems to have it all together but has four martinis a day. Jackson’s a natural musician so I encourage him to study all aspects of that calling. I think if people tend to their work instead of the trappings around their work they’ll do a lot better. I mean, I see it all the time where people seem preoccupied is with making it. Getting a record contract, going on the road, scoring this and scoring that. What they often don’t talk about is the developmnent of their work or what they’re trying to communicate with their work. I just encourage jackson to focus on develpoing his craft and the other things will fall into place later.

Just so that he’s having fun with it now, right?

Well, yeah, having fun and being a good student. (laughs).

One of the songs on the new album, “Spell,” involves Allen Ginsberg. Did he and the other Beats, like Burroughs and Kerouac, influence your work?

“Spell” was written by Allen, like a footnote to “Howl,” you know. As a writer I was probably much more influenced by William Burroughs. I knew both of them but I was closer to William and more influenced by his style of writing. The language on Horses is a direct offspring of his “Wild Boys.” I wasn’t so consciously influnced by Allen; he and the other beat writers didn’t influence me so directly. It was more indirect because Bob Dylan was so influenced by them and I’m in turn influenced by Bob Dylan. What Allen did as a person, or things he did culturally I found very inspiring. What he always tried to do was merge various aspects of our culture, to marry Buddhism and poetry and rock and roll and jazz, to bring all of these forces together to find some common ground. That was the tremendous energy of Allen Ginsberg. With William I truthfully just loved his style, as a man and as a writer, so I very much was attached to him.

So do you have any advice for budding poets?

I think that people that have a calling just need to keep working and be focused on the development of their craft. Not that they shouldn’t try to perform or get published, but not to look at such things as a barometer of their worth. They’ll learn themselves, because in the end, fame is fleeting. People will sell two million records and then the the next year nobody remembers them. What’s really important is the quaility of the work, and if it’s good work it will endure. I think that if one has a true calling they should follow that calling, but they should also be ready to go through a certain amount of pain. To feel that is an honor or a privilege, cause it’s not easy; being any type of artist is rough work. Very few people are given a break and part of it is being able to do the work itself. The reward often is just being part of that human chain of the whole evolutionary process of art, and sometimes there’s a lot of humiliation attached to it.

It’s a really unforgiving business.

It is. After all this time, even though people say nice things about me in the paper or other artists praise my work, I still endure continuous humiliation in trying to get my work across or in trying to get people to understand. It doesnt really stop. Sometimes people on a large scale, they just dont get it, but you cant let that kind of thing be your driving force. You have to be sturdy- being an artist is not for the faint hearted and you have to be proud that you are what you are. You have to be a proud bum.

Battery Acid Blues: The Hopeless Wankery of Critics

Keir DuBois is rapidly running out of patience with the opinionated masses. (Originally published in the Artsweek section of the UCSB Daily Nexus on 10/23/97).

Being in an unknown band is quite a peculiar position. “Unknown” is itself an inaccurate term for the band, since there are a large number of friends and family who know and love the music and support us no matter what. But in the eyes of the arbiters of cool in the music industry, we’re nobodies, just another half-assed garage band of white rock ‘n’ roll guys from the suburbs. We usually don’t mind this description, (except the half-assed part; we’re all proud of those) but we really don’t want to be confined by it. So, when we received our first real negative criticism, by one of our potential employers, it didn’t sit very well.

No, that’s not entirely true. Bryn, Adam, and Kevin (when he was still our drummer) really didn’t care. It doesn’t matter to them if everyone loves the Mojo Wire except for one little critic. I, however, for some reason take it personally when someone says a creation of mine “sucks.”

Let me explain further: This summer while we were shopping around our first demo tape to coffee shops and the like, the music director of one of these places actually went out of his way to call us up and tell us that he would not require the services of amateurs like us at this time or in the future. Now, one might think that this would be a standard sort of polite rejection, but the tone of this guy’s voice made it perfectly clear that he thought we were the kind of band that made him wish he’d never wasted his time with our crappy demo.

Naturally, when Bryn and Kevin heard this, they gave the universal sign for “wanker” and immediately forgot about it. Adam, who deals a little worse than they do with criticism, griped about it for about an hour and then let it go. As for me, the bureaucratic barbs of that coffee shop arsehole pissed me off for a whole week. Never mind that the guy probably would have been a lot nicer if we were a popular band. Still, I felt in a certain privileged company by letting him get to me.

For famous rock stars who are used to the adulation of millions of fans and the considerable power that such adulation allows, the naysayings of one small critic are probably like the bites of a gnat. However, that little gnat has the potential to really inflame the star, simply because it’s something that the star, for all of his supposed power and influence, cannot control: the opinion of another person. This vexes the star so much that he often feels like going after that gnat wth a cannon.

Rock journalism is full of gnats like these, but nowhere is as loaded with them as the British music press. English record critics are notorious for their desire to stamp out and abolish all forms of pretentiousness in the music biz. On the one hand, that can be seen as a noble cause, if only for the reason of deflating stars’ egos and reminding them that they might not be on the top of the heap for long. It is the stars’ decision whether or not to actually listen to and therefore pander to the opinions of these critics, and though sometimes doing that does indeed pay off in a good album, I’d like to believe that such a result is one of the artist making a conscious decision to create such a record rather than listening to the rants of bitter critics.

Conversely, the media criticism could just be jealousy on the part of the critics, who are stuck writing about the music when they’d rather be out playing and touring (or maybe that’s just me). What this means to the Mojo Wire is that probably three members of the band will deal well with more criticism that might come, and one, me, will fuss about it. It just really gets to me that some jerk who doesn’t know us and hasn’t seen us play can make the assumption that we’re terrible based on one or two listenings to our demo.

Ultimately, though, I don’t think I’ll care about critical gripes. Why? The rest of the band and I know that our tape is pretty damn good. Our friends know it. Our siblings know it. Hell, even our parents know it. They all know that we’re great and we show promise, even though on occasion Adam hits himself in the nose with the microphone, Bryn snaps his E strings, and I botch bass lines. They know we’re good, and we’re grateful that they’ll never let us become arrogant idiots.

September 07, 2002

Battery Acid Blues: A Humorless Weekend In Los Angeles

Keir DuBois is easily offended by no-talent comediennes. (Originally published in the Artsweek section of the UCSB Daily Nexus on 10/16/97).

This weekend the Mojo Wire and our extended family went to L.A. I kept a little record of it for posterity. Here’s what happened.

There is nothing that makes me appreciate this town more than leaving it for some other place that is not remotely like it. My sentiment is often shared by my band mates and our friends, and for this reason, we are taking a road trip down to Los Angeles.

Adam arrives with Stacy in tow, who has been ready to go since two o’clock. It is now four-thirty, and we’re waiting on Ian, who for whatever reason is nowhere to be found. Undoubtedly he will deny being the one who said we should all be ready by three. I say as much to Stacy and she agrees. “It’s not unusual.”

“It’s not uncommon,” echoes Adam.

“It’s not a surprise at all,” agrees Bryn.

Much later the Mafia Man does indeed arrive, and as we expected, denies any wrongdoing. We don’t care; let’s get on the road already. Now, in Adam’s car, it’s not a question of “Shall we play the Radiohead album?” It is instead queried, “Which Radiohead disc will it be?” Since the release of OK Computer we’ve been playing them non-stop. In between playing real bands we fit in the demo tape of the Mojo Wire that we finished yesterday. It is Stacy’s first real forced listening of the new material, and though she detests “Your Mama’s a Ho,” she really likes the rest.

“I’ll be your number one fan!” she gushes, and that’s no empty threat; when she gets excited about something, her face lights up in a bright happy smile, which, I now observed, was much better than the mopey state which had held her for the past three hours. Turns out that what breaks her blues is the silly “drip-drop” chorus to one of our songs called “Wishing Well Blues.”

Our planfor the trip is this: we meet up with our friends at UCLA and USC, and with our combined pent-up powers of fun, go out on the town and paint it crimson. It is my perhaps naive hope that we might even disillusion ourselves of the preconceived notions that L.A., and Hollywood in particular, is the current slimy center of all in this universe that is bitter and cynical. I’d like to think that this isn’t true, but I doubt it. I don’t like to be bitter and cynical unlessforced, and I really hope this trip won’t do that.

While I’ve been daydreaming about the nature of the universe, Adam has already reached one of his definitions of hell. Traffic is hopelessly snarled, the other drivers are jerks, and to top it off, the directions he got are less than helpful, and so now we’re getting a lovely tour of Bel Air. Ronald Reagan’s hood. O.J. Simpson’s turf.

Everybody appreciates it but our driver, and by the time we’re pulled over by a rent-a-cop patrol car wondering what we’re doing here, Adam’s had it. Lucky for us, our fearless frontman only has eyes for our ultimate destination, and squeezes the information out of the chubby security guard faster than that guard could squeeze the jelly out of a doughnut. We soon arrive at the foot of UCLA’s Dykstra Hall.

The whole crew is shortly rounded up from the separate giant pillars of study in this metropolis, and we’re off to see the Strip. Our first stop is the Laugh Factory, and the show we are to see consists of five unknown comics. Having seen a spat of showcases this summer back home, everybody’s excited, and that is only amplified by the loud neon on the club’s outside and the many portraits of now-famous comedians on the walls. Ticket prices brought us back to reality.

Not long after we’re seated my worst suspicions and fears about show business in L.A. are confirmed. Sure, I’d heard stories from my playwright aunt about the crazed energy of those who want to make it big, and I’d heard equally scary (but far funnier) stories from my psychiatrist uncle about how he used to treat all of these people, but none of this prepared me for the reality that was now spitting in our faces.

Every one of the comics in the show is basing their act on insults, pure unadulterated, and totally evil insults. No one in the first few rows is spared. We’re in the far back, and, unfortunately for us, behind a rather obese man who is drunk of his keister and laughing at every utterance of these slugs. He proceeds to repeat the last few words of every comic’s sentence as if memorizing them for later. I look across Stacy, who is fuming, over at Bryn, who is just about to kill the guy in front of him, and slowly abandon myself to the dark side.

It comes in the person of the most evil woman I’ve ever seen. She’s the perfect description of the bitter Hollywood has-been, and she was letting us know it. She said “fuck” so frequently that it went in and out of style six times. Bloody hell, she’s having a go at every race known to man, all the while gleefully telling us how much of a slut she is. Stacy has a rule concerning female comics seen live: they suck. Well, that rule is standing tall and proud tonight.

Speaking of Stacy, I now notice that she’s doing what everyone else wishes they were doing right now. After storming out and demanding her money back, and not getting it, she proceeded to the stage and let loose herself on that slime, with several others from the insulted crowd following suit.

It looks tough work; when Stacy pulls herself from the ruckus, her arms are covered in the black ichor that flows generously from the comic’s veins as she is pulverized by the audience. For a second we are all frozen, and just as quickly we realize that this is our signal to peel out fast, before the club’s monstrous bouncers awak and mangle us. It’s tough to pry Bryn’s maiming hands away from the fat guy in front of him. We barely make it to our cars, what with my brother screaming “How ya like that, Jabba?” the whole interminable distance.

There’s no feeling like tearing down the Strip at 80, in traffic, constantly looking over your shoulder for fear of armed pursuit. Even if we wanted to, we’re not to enjoy it. Soon we’re far away, tires squealing high on Mulholland, and the rush is over.

It’s going to sound cheesy, but it’s true: The Mojo Wire and our extended family learned a bitter lesson about the pitfalls of show biz and how it can make monsters of ordinary people. Maybe every average Joe learns that in Hollywood, and this was how we did. I don’t hate this city, but I hate what it does to people. If we take another road trip, I vote for Pismo Beach.

September 03, 2002

U2's Top Ten Lyrics

Cross-posted from @U2.

U2's lyrics are so often second fiddle to the manner in which they are delivered that making a list of their "best" scrawlings is almost wholly dependent on assessing the quality of Bono's performance. In many cases, especially on much of their '80s material, the actual words and phrases are so awful and cliched as to elicit embarassment at the least, and jealous hatred from sniping pseudo-poets (who don't get as much attention for their self-conscious "art") at most. More often than not, Bono's stage presence, and seemingly total conviction in what he's bellowing out, helps even his worst lyrics over the hump.

In my opinion, Bono has hardly bested his lyrical compositions from the early '90s material; in terms of pure pop song lyricism, Achtung Baby has far and away the best ratio of winners to duds, and is thus very disproportionately represented here. For the purposes of this list I'd define "pop song lyricism" as words that do more than nail down the mood of a song -- they also have to be slightly allusive to something else less direct and/or easily interpretable to anything any listener might read into them. Also -- and this is the obvious but easily overlooked part -- there's got to be a great lyrical hook for the chorus. Of course, the best ones break all those rules anyway, and since making "best-of" lists is ultimately divisive and futile, I'll merely present my personal favorite U2 lyrics. These choices might not look like those of a "real" U2 fan, but they're not those of a casual one either. To wit, and in no particular order:

"Until the End of the World"
Someone somewhere in U2 or their organization loves this one enough to ensure its appearance on each tour since its creation. Someone is right on the money (it flat out rocks every time); even if you don't care for or don't get the now-infamous Judas to Jesus dialogue, this lyric still has a multitude of phrase-turning zingers and some oral sex for good measure. It's direct, coming from the first person, and that either makes for a homoerotic spin on some biblical-scale envy or a wild peek into the psyche of a jilted lover.

Bono is lyrically at his best when condensing well-known epics down to a personal scale that's easier to relate to, even if it's to the ultimate turncoat "down the hold just passing time." Judas reveals himself as jealous and self-centered, obsessed with the man that he betrayed in much the same way that prisoners become consumed by the intimate details of their crimes ("I took the money, I spiked your drink"). Bono creates a superficially simple character that reveals a complexity equally passionate, if not more so, than Jesus' fullest flights of glossolalia. The mild black humor of lines about drowned sorrows learning to swim and bent truisms like "you miss too much these days if you stop to think" illuminated a narrative that, on first listen back when it was released, was really bizarre to hear coming from Bono of all people, if you believed all the pious media caricatures. My rule about a knockout chorus hook has already been broken, but I don't care -- Wenders' film title had to fit in somewhere in this, pound for pound, arguably one of U2's very best songs, and it works. Runners-up in the "I hate you but I love you" category: "One," "So Cruel."

"Ultraviolet (Light My Way)"
I didn't think so highly of this one until I got why Bono was singing it while hiding behind those twin devils of MacPhisto and the Mirrorball Man. It's a first-person exhortation from Satan! No really, all you need to do is picture MacPhisto singing lines like "the day is dark as the night as long" and "feel like trash but you make me feel clean/I'm in the black [of Hell], can't see or be seen," and the whole lyric congeals into a pretty desperate narrative. Why do you think that the nightly Zoo TV prank calls immediately preceded this song?

Okay, well maybe not, but other allusions are there: the "love [that's] like a secret that's been passed around" is the devil's bent misinterpretation of God's ditching him for Jesus (instead of what really happened). Still, even more of a giveaway happens in the live '93 version -- MacPhisto singing "Help!", pleading "help me get my feet back off the ground," corrupting the Lennon/McCartney line into a plea for returning to past glory. He's on a really heavy nostalgia trip ("I remember"), begging to go back to heaven -- he wants God ("Baby") to light the way back to favor and paradise.

Ultraviolet light is a great metaphor here, alluding to the invisible light of God's love that can also burn you if you get too close. The third verse/bridge (you can't tell thanks to Edge's arpeggiations) is again the peak of the whole thing, crashing down into another great chorus hook. I've read other critiques that place this song more along the lines of Job, and I suppose that works too. Of course, when delivered as a vaguely personal relationship breakup, it doesn't get bloated by pretension. Then again, if you really want to have fun, imagine the South Park Satan singing this in faux-R&B style. Just don't read Milton or Dante while listening to Macphisto -- there's just too much bad mojo. Runner up (just barely!) in the "wacky collect call from hell" category: "The Fly."

"The Wanderer"
According to B.P. Fallon's book, this lyric was subjected to a quick deadline -- the imminent arrival in Dublin of its chosen vocalist, Johnny Cash -- and I'm of the opinion this was a very good thing. The other three U2s had reportedly gone bonkers waiting for Bono to finish lyrics, so a finite cutoff probably did him good here by forcing a first-thought-best-thought, get-out-yer-best-stuff-now way of composition. What resulted was full disclosure of the whole shebang, the spelling out of what the whole three year Achtung Baby/Zoo TV/Zooropa marathon was all about (and apparently wasn't enough, as half of Pop demonstrates).

The despicable wretch narrating "The Wanderer" (as oppose to the baritone Voice of God singing it!) has bet the farm on one of the worst moral paradoxes in history, that of sinning to salvation. "You" is explicitly God here, and our hero moves through some treacherous (in his eyes) "city without a soul" -- a Gomorrah-like moonscape (or is it merely the Great Plains?) decimated by nukes and acid rain, seeking infinite mortal sensory overload. The kicker line is Cash's monologue: "I went out there in search of experience, to taste and to touch and to feel as much as a man can before he repents"; before attempting to attain that inhuman perfection seemingly espoused by Jesus.

At the same time, the lyric exposes the hypocrisy of this perspective -- the harsh judgmental opinion the narrator holds for the "citizens" who "don't want God in" their "kingdom" clearly betrays his adamant disdain for anyone who disagrees with his harsh ideology. Bono may have merely passed by that fork in the road and saw it as a dead-end off-ramp from the Zoo highway, but he was curious enough about what might be down there to send a figment of his imagination off that way. Maybe Bono thought the only way that poor jerk would survive would be if he had Johnny Cash's voice. Honorable mention in the "let's spell it all out for the morons" category: "Tryin' to Throw Your Arms Around the World," "Mofo" and "The First Time."

"Running to Stand Still"
If I had to choose a favorite Bono-heroin song, this is it. Though it doesn't come close to the vivid desciptions of orgasmic blissed-out stupor flaunted by Trainspotting, or even the visceral bluntness that Lou Reed conjures up, "Running to Stand Still" certainly bests Bono's two previous entires in this category -- "Bad" and "Wire" from The Unforgettable Fire album -- relatively weak lyrical efforts supported by terrific tunes. While those two lyrics attempted to evoke the pleasure and pain of heroin use (or what Bono thought of as heroin use, through the vicarious experience of acquaintances) in very broad strokes, "Running to Stand Still" brings the intensity down a bit with a few personal references sprinkled in the mix. The dead-end "seven towers" -- the projects of Ballymun -- surfaces as an image of finality and despair, and a better developed third-person narrative allows Bono to describe what he sees in a more honest way (but of course leaves plenty of room for his precious hyperbole). I think my favorite line is when "she is raging and the storm blows up in her eyes" qualified by "she will suffer the needle chill," a good simple balance of figurative imagery supported by literal reality.

The song and lyric took on new life during Zoo TV, as an uncomfortably mild interlude between the crush of "Bullet the Blue Sky" and the release of "Where the Streets Have No Name." Dressed as the Vietnam junkie-commando, Bono's theatrical role-playing and his rising cries of "Hallelujah" (a biblical praise offered up not for God, but for the feeling of the drug's progress through the body) build up to a climax almost as powerful as "Bad" before it's shot down by Larry's snare and eulogized by Bono's own harmonica. Another measure of a good lyric is its adaptability to different moods and perceptions, and adding that one perfect touch to the song matured it from a piece of empathy into a full-blown personal epic. Honorable mention in the "U2 sings about heroin?" category: "Bad" and "Wire."

This overlooked Pop song managed to fight its way into the Elevation tour set as a stronger companion piece to "Stuck in a Moment" before eventually complimenting the better "Kite." Handing the lyric over to the ghost of Michael Hutchence seemed a natural step after it had been similarly used for Princess Diana in a few PopMart shows, but both reinterpretations miss the original and more insightful topic: Bono's measured response to the indie-fascist arbiters of cool that view commercial rock & roll success as a morally bankrupt and degenerate enterprise. What could come off as an out-of-touch scolding instead hits all the right targets -- the unending guilt about getting something (money, fame) for doing relatively nothing (pop music), the desperate fear of losing one's personal identity and the ultimate disconnection from reality that results from worrying too much about the guilt, pressure and fear. Bono follows the meteoric trajectory perfectly ("taking steps that make you feel dizzy but you learn to like the way it feels"), and the mania to succeed that drives the famous ("you wanted to get somewhere so badly you had to lose yourself along the way") like he's describing someplace he's happy to have left.

Bono also exposes the inherent hypocrisy of the puritannical anti-success stance ("what you leave behind you don't miss anyway") and the delusion of power itself ("what you thought was freedom is just greed"). The chorus ("I'm not coming down!") indicates the narrator's desire to never return to that mindset and remain trapped with his own ego. Bono may have thought that the original feeling was a bit smug and superficial (in my opinion the only real criticism of it), so he allowed it to grow by stretching the interpretation out to cover the travails of success and celebrity in general. Runner-up in the "I'm glad that's not my problem anymore" sweeps: "Last Night on Earth."

"Mysterious Ways"
Ostensibly about John the Baptist in the same way as "End of the World" corralled Judas. The thing about Bono's writing that you have to remember is that he seems to love making his own spin on one of his favorite pieces of literature (take one guess), and his best stuff is when he extrapolates off the formula he discovered with the October album -- replacing God with You. Perhaps by the time of Achtung Baby he'd realized the way to make these biblical musings more personal was to flesh out a kind of rock and roll historical fiction, with a slight twist on what the listener thinks they know -- in this case, God as a "she."

Of course, all of that doesn't matter when you hear Edge's contorted wah pedal and Adam's effortlessly, masterfully minimal riff pulsing though the tune, but Bono makes his case on top of that with a hell of a hook. That chorus was supposedly so good that they wouldn't let it go back in Berlin, and aren't we lucky. Anyway, Bono gives us an updated Johnny, tucked away in monastic exile and "eating from a can" in some post-nuclear godless wasteland, so busy "running away from what you don't understand -- love" that he can't grasp contradictions like "if you want to kiss the sky you better learn how to kneel." Again, that interpretation isn't much to stand on when the tune itself is so good, but that's how you can tell it's good -- if the lyric can actually hide its deeper meaning and not actually pretend to be so profound, it's a real winner and sure to have a wide appeal. Runner up in the "sexy song with a cool biblical allusion" category: "Salome."

"Bullet the Blue Sky"
"Bullet the Blue Sky" is U2's greatest and most preposterous stab at the fury of Revelation. The lyric, a true piece of brimstone-hellfire preaching, chronicles an epic showdown between extreme good and extreme evil. The imagery is laughably simple on first glance, but the use of grand elemental slabs of allusion works well precisely because it keeps pace with the apocalyptically stomping music.

Bono's delivery is delirious with fervor, answering the bizarre carnage in El Salvador that he saw first-hand with some white-hot truth. It's very harsh, totally one-sided, vehemently uncompromising, and (unfortunately) completely humorless, 'cause to him this stuff really wasn't funny at the time. The "howling/locust wind" and "stinging rain" are direct and rather obvious references to apocalypse and the plague, and as the lyric goes on, the blunt indictment of the destructive 1980s American cowboy-diplomacy (gee, sound familiar?) rings just as true now as it did then.

There are some great lines in here, like "see the face of fear running scared in the valley [of the shadow?] below!" The best line -- "you plant a demon seed, you raise a flower of fire" is a terrifically poetic description of the dubiously practical and dangerously lazy American tendency to install foreign dictators in convenient locations around the world. This lyric is also an extension of what Bono merely scraped the surface of on albums like October; one does indeed babble with the gibberish of prophecy when the finger of God presses firmly on one's head, and it would appear that one gets mighty cranky when this doesn't change anything. Runner-up in the "dark heart of America" category: "Exit."

Hey, bring it on. You try and build a lyric around a gut-slashing blister of a chorus like "don't let the bastards grind you down." It's Bono's best refrain ever, and the rest of the lyric isn't exactly slouching either. The poor guy must have felt really backed into a corner up in that posh Sydney penthouse suite during LoveTown's Australian trek.

No really, if you can get beyond the superficial irony of someone in Bono's contemporary position writing something like this, it surely comes off as a personal best. Hell, if I were a lead singer/lyricist armed with this, there's no way it would have been the only one from that album to not see live performance. The unrelenting list of cynical commands and delirious disorientation ("and you can build and I can will...and you can smash and you can dreams begin responsibilities") perfectly illustrates the simple metaphor of the celebrity balancing act, almost like a diary, but what makes it click is the setting on the very personal scale of a dissolving relationship. The whole thing is so forceful by the end -- the one-two punches amass into a giant freeway pileup of venom -- that the song effectively ends the album; the only thing that could follow it is the bitter, quiet aftermath of "Love is Blindness." Runner-up in the "you mortals will never understand" category: "Dirty Day."

I like to slag off most of All That You Can't Leave Behind, fairly or not, but this is the only song from that album that still holds my attention. Bono's relatively simple fable about the acceptance of death as a part of life hit home long before its defining performance after the passing of his father, but it was uniquely clarified at that point much better than when Bono offered a muffled description onstage in Boston. His assertion that this "goodbye song" could be from almost any point of view speaks to his tendency of creating open-ended anthems out of very personal subject matter.

The narrator in "Kite" is either hopelessly resigned to fate or totally at peace with himself, and despite (presumably) Bono's desire for the latter, I'm inclined to believe otherwise. "I want you to know that you don't need me anymore" is an awfully tender kiss-off, assuming that the narrator is amazed to discover this fact for the first time. The simple metaphor "of a kite blowing out of control on the breeze" actually says more than any bit of detail that attempts to support it; the fragility and unpredictability of life that is so often shrugged off by someone who is childless is brought into sharp focus once kids come into the picture. The narrator seems newly in touch with his own mortality, a refreshing perspective despite the natural impulse to make it as profound as possible. The lyric's last couplet about new media being the big idea unnecessarily dates it, and isn't really much of a counterweight to the universality floating through the rest of the song, but that's relatively easy to forgive when everything comes together as well as "Kite" does. Runners-up in the "death is not the end" category: "Tomorrow" and "One Tree Hill."

"Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me"
No fancy allusions here -- simply another great direct polemic about one of Bono's many pet ideas: a vague cross-breeding of rock star as dictatorial messiah superhero. Maybe that's why he thought it would work well with Batman Forever; it certainly bested Marilyn Manson's feeble "Antichrist Superstar" swipe at the concept, though Manson might get a C- for effort.

"Hold Me, Thrill Me" is almost like an update for "The Fly," as sung by, say, MacPhisto; the peak here is at the bridge (who says choruses have to be the nucleus?): "they want you to be Jesus, to go down on one knee, but they'll want their money back if you're alive at thirty-three." It seems like the one contradiction that Bono doesn't want to be at the center of is the one that involves the most self-absorption, the one that no one knows they've strayed into until moments before they exit this life. The now-formulaic celebrity death-by-fame was splashed all over the PopMart screen in Warholian proportions while U2 performed this song, triggered by hacking coughs and expletives from Bono (my brother swears that Bono says "fuck this!" before careening into this song during the PopMart Mexico video). The character he jumps into for this song is literally teetering on the edge of the abyss, doing that sublime tabloid two-step for all to see, and maybe Bono had to get this sort of creature out of his system before he ended up that way. Its sounds silly, but his insight into Michael Jackson's bizarre adventures of a decade ago shows that Bono can easily tune into that wavelength, even if he doesn't like what he hears. Honorable mention in the "stage is but a platform shoe" category: "Even Better Than the Real Thing," "Discotheque" and "Elvis Ate America."

General honorable mention goes to "One," mostly because it is fantastic despite being overanalyzed and played to death. The fact that a song about U2's deteriorating relationship with each other in Berlin can be taken to mean pretty much anything speaks to either Bono's pathetic vagueness or his eminent sensitivity. I think it's both. Kudos also to "Please," the second best song on Pop and infinitely better in every way than "Sunday Bloody Sunday."

September 02, 2002

Retaliatory Self-Martyrdom

An unashamedly self-centered analysis of Mojo Wire-era song lyrics.

Immediate disclaimer: Of course, this doesn't include the lyrics I wrote for the first two Mojo Wire albums, but since the 12-bar parodies on Battery Acid Blues were much more collaborative things with Bryn and Adam, and most of my half-assedly rushed Rocket Fuel lyrics got re-written for Honey White anyway...

How Far Away (May 1998): The first lyric that I put any real effort into was still essentially a whiny breakup bitchfest, the perfect weapon for a 21-year-old man-child. It was loosely directed at an ex-girlfriend for (as I saw it at the time) scurrilously defaming me as some kind of superficial gigolo. Calling her Cassandra was a cheap and toothless insult that seemed fitting, so I ran with it. It wasn't cathartic, though- it was more like a festering cut, and I found it dangerously easy to progress from false prophecies to something nastier. Slashing with the Sylvia Plath knife was callous and ignorant, but like I said in the lyric, I was the last one to find out about any of this. I've always hated being the victim of inside jokes, so since everyone else knew I was getting dumped except me, I thought it was more than fair to fight fire with napalm. It's a total hyperbolic stretch from what actually happened, but it's okay to be a little cartoonish in a pop lyric, right? Naturally, it had no effect on her whatsoever, but the band dug it. The music was happy and loud, so that was the only thing audiences heard anyway.

Sunset Down (July 1998): Like "How Far Away," this one is another ill-defined breakup rant, only slightly mollified by placing it atop one of Adam's softer acoustic tunes. The lyric itself had no real structure; it was a rambling thing lacking verses or choruses or anything like that, but it worked. Even so, most of the lines hang on clumsy rhymes like "nations/reservations," and the themes were lame and cliched (things strung together like sunsets and endings). The only line I still really like is "the heat is high but I know my way and nothing so wrong will happen today," because it's completely delusional; you only ever say something that confident when you've been through a hell of a wringer and you feel like crap. Another good couplet is "losing every lead/learning how to bleed" (inserted in a rewrite a year later). Both are the sorts of things that you lie to yourself about for the sheer sake of functioning after a tragedy. I had no such tragedy worse than being dumped, so I was just being a big baby, but at least I knew the line was bogus and knew it had to be delivered with a healthy smirk.

The Shivering Sand (August 1998) I will always count "Shivering Sand" as one of my favorite musical accomplishments- even though it's a silly lust limerick with shaky metaphors of quicksand and whirlpools- because it only took me a miraculously short six hours to write and record the entire thing. It began with that great slippery bassline, and then all I did was channel the lonliness I felt during a summer in Isla Vista without my girlfriend. I swiped the title phrase from Wilkie Collins' novel The Moonstone, which I was slogging through at the time for a Victorian Literature class. I didn't enjoy it- Collins' "shivering sand" metaphor was supposed to represent repressed Victorian female sexuality, in all its desperate glory- but then of course I turned around and wrote a song about that very thing, except I was the angsty female. For balance, I tried to inject the mood of detached cool from songs like Dire Straits' "Down To The Waterline," and so "Shivering Sand" helped define the "surf-noir" sound on the Seaside album. The lyrics changed a bit when it was re-recorded in 2001, and it was that revised version that Honey White included in their live sets.

Pisces Lullabye (February 1999) This lyric has always been a pretty nebulous, open-ended thing, but the original version was extremely incoherent. I was trying to peek out of my girlfriend's head and see things the way I thought she might, four months after her father's death. How presumptuosly preposterous is that? As with so many things, I was younger and dumber and trying to be empathetic. It's generally okay, though, as long as you don't try to figure it out. The title also plays on the idea that a Pisces (her) and a Scorpio (me) are astrologically speaking a perfect match. We only found out about that six months later, but it fit, and a line from a Pavement song hit it on the head so I filched them both. It also sounds like the Cure, which was one of her big favorite bands. I totally rewrote it from the ground up in 2002 for Honey White. We'd been rehearsing a louder, slightly faster, non-lullaby take of the song anyway, so the revised lyric structure helped a lot and made "Pisces" a more complete composition.

Water Into Wine (September 1999) Following up the Seaside Hamlet Skids lyrics proved tough, mostly because of self-imposed pressure. "Water Into Wine" was first set in motion by evangelical religion rubbing me the wrong way, but what kept the thing alive was a tangent- my original idea of Isla Vista as Pinocchio's Pleasure Island (where little boys and girls eat candy, play games, have fun, and turn into jackasses), and I ran with that. I thought it might be fun to pick on the Jesus/invincibility/martyr complexes of 18-24 year old Isla Vistans like myself (I was then 22) and just put all that into the context of the lyric. It's ambiguous and I think that works well for either narrator (divine or earthly). The second verse arrives with the sinking feeling of knowing you've worn out your welcome- on this mortal coil, or in this stinking student ghetto- when you just can't relate to everyone else around you anymore. By the third verse our hero wants out and the imagery is more apocalyptic, with thunder and tidal waves. We never actually get to find out if he made it out of town, though.

You're On Your Own (December 1999) This lyric was hard to write and I'm still not convinced that it's viable, but it works well enough for Joe's ominous music. I think what it ended up being was a bitter and delusional stalker muttering about how their ex can't escape their experience together and how it defined them more than they might think. More vague I's and You's can be filled in with anyone from any relationship. The title came out of further brainstorming about Isla Vista and how it's the first taste of social freedom for so many people, and they squander it with excessive behavior merely to test their own limits. Like, "here you go son, have fun at school, you're on your own now." This wasn't entirely my experience personally so it made it a little tougher to write about. So it's either that or an even more vague idea that (continuing the religion thing here), well, what if our saviors gave up on us out of sheer frustration? Humans are stupid and I think the idea that they can be saved is equally naive, but the lyric doesn't really get close enough to explaining that well in a very "poetic" way.

Heart On A Platter (March 2000) For "Heart On A Platter" I'd sidestepped Isla Vista's excess somewhat, and gave in to another loose abandonment rant. This one has relatively weak links to the ongoing anti-religion theme in that it contains sporadic details from the falseness of born-again style baptism, but I think it gets a little closer to the main source of all this mess, which is my busted relationship with my father. The "happy couple" is nominally romantic but it could refer to any interpersonal exchange and was supposed to try and get a handle on the fact that I don't get along with people who dump me because my dad left, or some weepy self-pitying crap like that. It really felt, though, like he erased twenty years when he fought to sell the house I grew up in for selfish and dumb reasons. The case going to trial was literally the almost-court battle to get revenue from my parents' house, and "walking away in style" was definitely not on the agenda for certain parties. The rest of the 2nd verse refers to my perception of his weird attempts at making a stable new family based on cliched nostalgia, and how silly it looks to the rest of us. I must have been in a terrific mood.

One Last Hallelujah (April 2000) Part II (after "Water Into Wine") of the semi-divine Isla Vista Trilogy. Hallelujah is one of my favorite words, and it doesn't necessarily always have to be associated with religion. What I tried to do with this lyric is once again needle the idiocy of I.V. (as a small-scale prism of larger examples of excess in the world and its history), but the problem with that is that whomever does that (if it's a straight I vs. You) of sounding too high mindedly preachy and righteously clueless. So, I included myself among the guilty and merely used the lyric as a photo shoot to expose the behavior without actually endorsing or condemning it (though I think the narrator does see the inherent meaninglessness). Also, specifically naming your medication of choice is always better than being general about it and sounding like Nancy Reagan- hence, tequila, rum, and gin all have starring roles in this swinging drinking song.

This is probably the best example of my writing as phrase collection- "half-assed fiction" and "epic funk" just sounded cool and I was glad I could insert them somewhere. Taking apart other cliches is fun too- "talent jumping a generation" is ok, but excessive behavior allows it to hopelessly bypass everyone entirely, leaving us hacks and posers that drink too much. The kicker here is that the dumb party people don't know if their hallelujahs will be their last words on this earth before their bodies give out from overstimulation. The line about setting the record straight is intentionally crap- no one ever does in these situations and especially not if they've slept together and dumped each other and met up at a random party, but that's what it feels like at the time. The crucifixion analogy was tossed in to take apart the self-righteous fretting that many people including myself have subjected their relationships to. Basically I didn't want to be a sensitive prick anymore, so I chose to be an asshole prick, at least superficially, cause it doesn't matter.

The Peak Of My Career (Sepember 2000) Part III of the Isla Vista trilogy. It's definitely the weakest of the three, but it is a complete and whole composition by itself. The song opens the morning after with coeds doing the walk of shame (east to campus), and with the first failed relationship kicked out of Eden and walking away east as well. One hand on the bottle and one foot out the door, with fake maturity- all the while pretending that we're used to this cause it happens all the time. I added the complicit "we" in here for our hero, and it lets him or us get away with knowing we can't have everything material and carnal but wanting and striving vainly for it anyway. The 3rd verse rather simplistically reiterates that reputations are always on the line in a fake setting like this, and that attempts at conversion and supposed blessed reality checks will always fail. The title and chorus come from the preconception here that most every student sees these experiences as their last great gasp of individuality and freedom and achievement before they're shackled to careers and marriage and picket fences (to which they nevertheless go willingly). It's a lie, especially if this is in fact their first spurt of true excess.

Fatal Flaws (December 2000) Or, the "Unemployment Paranoia Freak-Out Blues." It's one of the most fun things I've written and is a riot to sing because it's way too close to the truth. The personification of Reality, Boredom, and Ambition as three women the narrator is/has been involved with was a neat touch. The fact that it came quickly after my ignominious exit from a terrible, dull job after about a week, leading into three months of unemployment, was probably not coincidental, shall we say, but it took a little while for the lyric to come together. "The fear" is something different from Hunter Thompson's fear. It's about having an ideal goal and knowing that there's a mountain of work ahead coupled with that awful feeling of not knowing where or how to start- like something good is just around the corner but still out of reach. Bummer, huh? Maybe, but the song is a 12-bar that really rocks, so we'll just take what we can.

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